LAKE PLACID - Sunday will be a special day for Olympic champion Bill Demong.
Not only will he compete for his final national championship in nordic combined - a mix of ski jumping and cross-country ski racing - but he will do it at the place where his career began as a young child.
"My whole career has been tied to this venue, either as the place where I grew up or the primary training location," Demong told the Enterprise Friday. "I think it's going to be hard not to be a little emotional about it."
Bill Demong jumps in October 2010 in Lake Placid.
(Enterprise photo — Mike Lynch)
Demong, 33, grew up in Paul Smiths and Vermontville. He is an eight-time national champion and one-time world champion who will compete in his fifth Winter Olympics in February. He won an individual gold medal and a team silver medal in the 2010 Vancouver Olympics. He has 22 World Cup podium finishes, including nine gold medals, and four podiums in world championships.
Yet he has never won a national championship in Lake Placid.
Demong said he can remember the first days of ski jumping at what was once called Intervale, now the Olympic Jumping Complex. As a child, he would leave school in Saranac Lake in the afternoon, head to a candy store on Main Street for a snack and then head over to the library, where his parents would pick him up and drive him to the ski jumps for practice.
"It's kind of crazy to think back to how many nights I spent jumping at Intervale," he said.
Demong plans to retire after this season, which peaks with the Olympics in Sochi, Russia. Therefore, he hopes to see a lot of familiar faces at the ski jumps this weekend.
"I would ask that people that have supported me along the way, come out and watch," Demong said. "I think it's going to be a really awesome competition, and exciting, and potentially my last one here."
There will be two national championships there Sunday: one for ski jumping and another for nordic combined. The competition starts at 11 a.m. and is part of the two-day Flaming Leaves Festival. The day will finish with an awards ceremony and, at 4 p.m., a community send-off for local athletes hoping to compete in Sochi.
The national championships are on the second day of ski jumping competitions, with a New York Ski Education Foundation competition scheduled for Saturday. Demong said he plans to compete that day for fun, but Sunday is when it gets serious for him.
"There's some potential for there to be some pretty exciting tactics and moves in the race, and it's a good venue to see how the sport works," Demong said. "And certainly for us (it will) be a little bit of a kickoff to the Olympic season and give some of the folks watching an idea of what nordic combined will be like and how exciting it can be in a pursuit format - not just on TV but live, being able to see how the race evolves to the finish line."